Rowe v. Sisters of Pallottine Missionary Society

In Rowe v. Sisters of Pallottine Missionary Society (2001) 211 W.Va. 16 560 S.E.2d 49, the plaintiff crashed his motorcycle while participating in a motocross event and injured his left leg. An emergency room physician treated and discharged the plaintiff, but complications involving a lacerated artery developed. (Id., 560 S.E.2d at pp. 494-495.) Subsequent extensive surgery saved the leg, but the plaintiff was hospitalized for 35 days and his use of the leg was significantly impaired. (Id. at p. 495.) The plaintiff sued the doctor and hospital for negligence. (Rowe, supra, 560 S.E.2d at p. 495.) The doctor settled and the case proceeded to trial against the hospital alone. (Ibid.) The jury returned a verdict against the hospital for $880,186. (Id. at p. 496.) On appeal, the hospital argued the jury should have been instructed on principles of comparative negligence, including the negligence of the plaintiff in crashing his motorcycle. (Rowe, supra, 560 S.E.2d at p. 496.) The West Virginia Supreme Court stated that a "majority of courts hold that a health care provider cannot compare the plaintiff's negligence conduct that triggered the ... need for treatment with the health care provider's later negligence in treating the plaintiff." (Id. at p. 497.) The court stated the reason for this rule was simple and obvious--patients who may have negligently injured themselves are entitled to subsequent nonnegligent medical care and to an undiminished recovery if reasonable medical treatment is not afforded. (Ibid.) The court adopted the majority approach and concluded the trial court did not err in refusing to give the comparative negligence instruction requested by the hospital. (Ibid.)